As anyone who pays attention to pop culture knows, Girls has raised something of a ruckus since its first airing. At first the ruckus was good, then it was a little back-lashy, then Girls had the weight of American culture placed on it, and that’s never helpful. That’s pretty much why I never wound up watching the first season — too much ruckus.
But I got on board with the second, thinking (I think) that maybe the noise had died down some? Heh.
The ruckus continues. As is so often the case with pop culture phenoms, the noise surrounding last week’s episode had nothing to do with the actual content of the episode, the humor, the drama, the knowing sorrow, but with bodies. Specifically: Lena Dunham’s body as the 24 year old character Hannah, and that of Patrick Wilson, who played the hot 42 doctor with whom Hannah has a sudden, typically explicit, two-day love affair. Naked bodies everywhere. The general consensus among many was “he’s so hot, he would never do someone who looks like Lena Dunham.” Which oh my god.
However! Last night I discovered that Dagmara Dominczyk, Patrick Wilson’s own wife, had weighed in, and done so kick-assed-ly: “His wife is a size 10, muffin-top & all,” she tweeted at one hater, “& he does her just fine. Least that’s what I hear. ; ) rule #1 – never say never.”
And this led to me thinking about the power of Lena Dunham’s naked body.
Which led me to the other things I’ve been thinking about Girls, which led me to decide to write them down. And hereunder be random spoilers (and approximate quotes, as I’m working from memory), if that matters to you.
Going back to the first episode of the season, we see Thomas-John present his brand new wife (Hannah’s friend) Jessa, whom he married on a whim, with a basket full of puppies. Surprise! Big happy gift! Then he runs out the door to work. Jessa and Hannah take the puppies to the park, Jessa says she’s “really well,” better than she’s ever been. In a later episode we learn, completely in passing, that the puppies were all returned, and then we go on to see what starts out a very sexy evening with the newlyweds but turns into an absolute nightmare as the two go out with Thomas-John’s parents. Jessa gets annoyed with their upper class judgmental natures, and lets fly with all her sordid past, in pseudo-pleasant passive-aggressive style. They go home, Thomas-John declares her the worst mistake of his life, calls her a whore, copious tears, breaking of things, he demands “how much will it take” to make her go away.
Much has been made of the fact that Jessa’s essentially a grifter, but a) there’s this wonderful pause when she’s storming up the stairs and she turns to look at Thomas-John as he says that hateful thing – and she decides she might as well get something out of what was clearly the worst mistake of her life, too. We have no reason to believe she’s lying when she tells Hannah she’s “really well” in the park – but b) let’s look at Thomas-John, shall we? I think the puppies are the key here: He picked up something he thought would be fun and delightful without really thinking about the consequences, and then when the consequences turned out to be too much for him to handle? He returned it. I think Jessa is a puppy in a basket for Thomas-John, and her failure is only in her inability (apparently consistent with her past) to recognize that ahead of time.
In one episode, Hannah’s holding a dinner party for friends, the kind of dinner party you hold when you’re in your twenties and still have roommates and your apartment is tiny and adding fairy lights and matching chairs makes you feel like you’ve really spruced the place up. The party falls apart around her ears, as all the guests are awful to each other or themselves or storm off or whatnot, and through it all, Hannah’s really trying to be calm and collected and a grown up – she keeps serving food, and talking calmly about the upset as if it doesn’t matter, and then there’s this one moment when you see her with the dessert, a bundt cake (a bundt cake!), and a fork, and she’s just eating it, her enormous brown eyes looking up at the insanity around her, and I just want to say: I loved that moment so much I wanted to give it a hug.
In last week’s Patrick Wilson episode, the affair starts to fall apart when Hannah starts to reveal more of herself than she has heretofore, the side of her (which is kind of All Of Her) which insists that she gather life experiences, the weirder the better, in order to write novels about Life later.
If you’re watching closely, you’ll see the moment it happens: Hannah says something about possibly being touched inappropriately as a toddler, and Joshua, trying to connect with her, reveals that he “let someone touch my penis” when he was nine — and Hannah poo-poos it, because he “let it happen” and she didn’t have a choice. Patrick Wilson’s face reveals it all, the attempt to understand, the instant distancing when someone rejects your (likely pretty painful) story, the desire to not have this be happening, and that’s it: He’s gone. And then she drives the final nail when she insists on calling him “Josh,” which he’s repeatedly asked her not to call him. Everything else she says in that moment is more of the same, and it really is who she is (at least in this moment of her life): a person so busy trying to see her own life that she can’t be bothered to really see anyone else’s. Sometimes this leads to humor (Girls is a comedy, after all), and sometimes it leads to that kind of painful moment, where I literally had to cover my eyes.
Lena Dunham’s naked body.
I’ll be brief, because (again) a lot of pixels have been spilled on this already but it boils down to this: In a world in which conventionally beautiful — nay, conventionally gorgeous — women like Beyonce, Megan Fox, and Penelope Cruz are regularly photoshopped (to see what I mean, and how ridiculous it is, click here), the vision of an un-retouched, un-butt-doubled, un-apologetic female form that does not conform to the standards set for us by someone’s photoshop version of Penelope Cruz is borderline revolutionary. It shocks the sensibilities in a way that threatens to re-wire thought, and has power in ways that I don’t think we really even know how to calculate.
And that’s what I have to say about Girls.